Burning Man is all about radical self-expression, so it only follows that the more outrageous the costume, the better! People leave social expectations behind as they sport everything from Cosplay and clothes made of LED lights to full-sized adult onesies. But just because the clothes get outrageous at Burning Man doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules. With the sometimes harsh conditions of the desert, there are some practicalities to keep in mind—and your clothes should also align with the main mantras of the Burn. Here’s everything you need to know about what to wear to Burning Man!
Mind Your Materials
One of the biggest concerns at Burning Man is MOOP, or “matter out of place.” Burners are asked to leave the desert exactly as they found it. You’ll see people carrying their trash with them throughout the week—there are no trash cans at Burning Man—and you should prepare to do so, too.
But when it comes to costumes, there are a couple of important things to consider. MOOP includes anything that’s left behind, including pieces that come off of clothing. Some costume items that are strongly discouraged due to MOOP potential include the following:
Glitter and sequins. They are not allowed because they fall off of costumes too easily.
Feathers. This has recently become a hotly debated costume item. Some people still wear them, but it’s best to follow as closely to the mantra of the Burn as possible.
Material with loose threads. Cheap material that is constantly leaving loose threads behind is still considered MOOP.
Decorative items. This includes items like false eyelashes, face jewels, stickers, acrylic nails, etc.
Remember, the goal is to leave the playa exactly how you found it when you first arrived. This is key when considering what to wear to Burning Man.
The playa is not the place for a T-shirt and jeans. This is one of your only opportunities to express yourself in whatever way you want! Burning Man is considered a piece of art, and every person who attends is a part of it. That means it’s time to leave your usual day-to-day clothes behind and become a living, breathing art display.
Do you wish you could dress like a medieval knight every day? Do it. Maybe you want to walk on stilts and wear a cowboy hat. Give it a try! Almost anything goes at Burning Man, and the more outrageous your outfit, the better. You want to be as eye-catching as possible!
Plus, Burning Man has a day called Tutu Tuesday, so be sure to bring your craziest tutu along as well! And, of course, costumes with lights are a time-honored tradition at Burning Man, both as a creative expression and as a way to see on the pitch-black playa at night.
Prepare for the Playa
Yes, you should wear a costume to Burning Man, but that does not mean that you should forget about the harsh conditions of the playa. Here are some things to keep in mind when considering what to wear at the festival:
Protection From Harsh Temperatures
Sun protection and heat protection is a must. Your costume should be lightweight and breathable—otherwise, you could become seriously sick. Hats are also non-negotiable, not only to keep you cool, but also to protect your head against the harsh desert sun. Luckily, since this is Burning Man, hats have become more than just sun protection—they’re also another way to express yourself. You can wear a regular hat, a cowboy hat, a military cap, or whatever other head covering you can dream of.
But sun and heat aren’t the only things that you need to prepare for. Bring a heavy coat for the evenings. When temperatures plummet, you might find yourself shivering!
Of course, wind and sand protection are also important. Wear comfortable, preferably closed-toed shoes, so you can make the long treks across the playa. Sandstorms can also crop up suddenly in the desert, so goggles are a must-have. There are other kinds of wind and sand protection to consider as well, such as face masks, scarves, or just plain old bandanas.
Be Radically Self-Reliant
If you search online, you’ll find thousands of options for Burning Man costumes. But Burners are encouraged to skip the store-made costumes and put an outfit together themselves. One of the mantras of Burning Man is radical self-reliance. That should apply to your clothing, too.
Instead of having someone else make your costume, challenge yourself to make your own. That could mean using things you already have, swapping clothing items with friends, or combing through the thrift store racks to find the wildest and most outrageous items you can track down.
Choose Your Sources Ethically
Burners are also highly concerned about the ethics and environmental impact of their clothing choices, and it’s widely believed that your costume should reflect that. Avoid buying from large corporations if you can, and instead, opt for items from small businesses, pre-used items or recyclables.
Doing a clothing swap is also an environmentally friendly choice, as is going to a secondhand store instead of buying new. In recent years, upcycling has also become a new trend that is popular at Burning Man. Putting your costume together is a fantastic way to express your creativity, so go wild while also doing some good!